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Mickey_C

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Posts
11
Howdy,

My intro is in the intro area, and this is post #2.

We have been using an 05 Astro with a Coleman Santa Fe popup for a couple of years...it's good and bad. Good in that it doesn't cost squat to tow. The Astro runs no worse (or better) with or without it. Then, we decided we REALLY wanted a shower, toilet, and overall nicer rig. To top that off, when we began researching our Astro's true tow capabilities, we learned that the iihs.org ratings on this vehicle were questionable anyway. My seeing it as a safe family car for the wife and kids was over, let alone a capable tow vehicle.

We really considered getting a KZ Coyote 16 hybrid... which would be "maybe" okay for that Astro. But finally, the specs won out.

Everything we read said UPGRADE YOUR TOW VEHICLE FIRST. So we have.

We purchased an '06 Titan SE crew cab with the factory "Big Tow" package. I know this is no Dodge Hemi - but I felt for our purposes, it should do fine. We were impressed by the safety ratings. Top rated safety in a 1/2 ton truck by iihs.org.

So far so good - I think this was a solid choice, and a substantial upgrade from the Astro.

Well, yesterday is where the questions begin, when we journeyed to the RV dealers. Questions like "What on earth did we do?"

We went to Earnhardt RV to look at a used Rockwood Roo, the 23SS one. Two flip down tent beds, one slider. But when there, we found out that we could probably get the Fleetwood Pioneer 180CK at the same price. The problem with all of this however is how they jumble the numbers around.

1. Issues towing this with the Titan?
I would think no, but I'll be sure. As stated below I requested the prodigy brake controller and the equalizer WD hitch. I've been reading up. This factory tow has extending mirrors, transmissions cooler and temperature guage, class IV towing hitch, towing mode, vehicle stability control, and limited slip differential TRAC package, as well as a lower gear ratio, that they say works out the same as a 4 speed 4:10 gear ratio. I have no idea what this spec stuff means. The dealer told me this was more than adequate for a smaller TT.

2. Did we get taken?
We got the 180CK, with these addons: 13,500 BTU air, scissor stab jack 2pr (what ever that is), 16" drop in range, 6 gal water heater DSI, stereo cd, LPG cover, gravel cover, double bed with bunk. List 15,360
Equalizer hitch and prodigy brake controller 900.00
Of course there's fees, taxes, etc.
Traded in our Coleman for 1500.00 (it's a 97), chumped up 2,000.00, and they let us leave the lot for a total owed of $10,490.00. That figure includes the prep, licensing, brake controler, hitch, blah blah blah. I hope we didn't bungle this. We've now got a 118.00 per month payment, plus RV storage (and no idea where that will be). We're supposed to go back and sign our final paperwork on Thursday, and drive away with it. Saturday we'll be leaving town with it on a 300 mile maiden voyage. Yes, I have never towed anything this big (though I did drive a 40' liftgate some 25 years ago as a night job in college).

3. Is this really smarter than a hybrid?
Seems you get more sleeping with the hybrid - but the pioneer just seemed nicer overall. The weight seemed about the same. Would you go for a bigger sleeping capability hybrid or the smaller solid side that "just meets your needs". The sleeping would work for us, be cramped with many more. We thought this would be more element resistant.

My wife is giving me the big eyes like "Well, did you dummy up again honey? Did you throw our money out the window?"

Your advice is greatly appreciated.

Mickey C
Phoenix, AZ
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Well, Mickey, it probably would have been smarter to ask your questions here before you bought truck or trailer. Our advice won't be much help to you now that you already bought them.    But let's see what ya got...

You really should not have bought the truck until you had decided how big a trailer you really were going to buy. The trailer actually purchased is often larger and heavier than anticipated. But Nissan rates your SE with the Tow Package to tow 9400 lbs, so you are in good shape. The Pioneer 180CK weighs in at 3707 empty and can go to a max of 5900 when fully loaded, so you are well within the Titan's tow capacity.  Several magazines have rated it as an excellent towing vehicle too and the Big Tow package has the sort of accessories that will make towing easy. The Prodigy brake controiller is probaly the best there is and a WD hitch was the right choice too.  So you seem to have done pretty well on that score. Hope that let's you breath a bit easier!  The only real shortcoming on this truck is its payload capacity, the amount of weight it can actually carry. It's a shade under 1500 lbs and that has to cover the wife and kids and dog, whatever gear is in the truck and the portion of the trailer weight that rests on the hich, which will be about 15% of the total trailer weight. If the trailer ends up at maybe 5000 lbs when loaded for travel, you have 750 lbs on the hitch, leaving another 700 lbs to cover everything else. Keep the wife and kids on a healthy diet and you will be OK.

Did you get taken on the trailer?  A really good negotiator might get 20% or a bit more off the MSRP on a modestly priced Rv like the Poneer, but not all dealers will go that low.  However, 15% ought to be readily obtainable, so I would have tried to buy the trailer for $12,000 and settled for no more than about $13,000.  The Equalizer hitch and Prodigy are high profit items at their list price and the dealer can use them to sweeten a deal, but let's just say a 20% discount on those too. $900 - 20% = $720. Then there must have been some tax and  tag fees too - you didn't mention sales or use tax rate  in your state, but it's probably significant $$.  You paid about $13,950, so ya didn't do too bad there either, though you should not think  the dealer was crying the blues after the sale. He's probably happy with the deal and you seem to be too (despite the buyer's remorse), so it qualifies as a good deal cause both buyer and seler are satisifed with what they got.

Is this really smarter than a hybrid?  That's strictly a matter of taste and your personal wants & needs. As you say, the hybrids give more space for a given length, but a fully enclosed trailer gies a beter feeling of security from the elements. You made your choice based on what seems more important to you and that's the way you have to do it.  You might change your mind at a later time, as your wants and needs change, but you have to go with what seems best at the time you have to decide.

So, I guess you can look Momma in the eye and tell her, "No I didn't screw up" [leaving off the "this time", of course].  ;) Now go have some fun!

By the way, Congratulations! That's one nice looking truck  ;D and 'm sure you will love the new trailer too.





 

Mickey_C

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Posts
11
Sorry for the too-late to give the DON'T-DO-IT advice - I didn't think about an RV forum until I started searching for generators and a coffee maker!

That's good info on the payload... family + dog under 550 lbs. So I guess I should be weary of loading anything else in there... so I can carry the fuel.

So I guess I need to find info on how to properly load up this rig. Now, that 750 lbs limit is only if I have the trailer fully loaded, right? For the maiden voyage I am hoping to go easy on gear. Well, other than about 400 lbs of telescopes! Good thing you pointed this out though - I was tempted to put the expensive optics under the tonneau top on the Titan, being they cost more than the trailer.

Where do I start on learning how to load-balance this rig?

Any good books or videos out there?

Thanks for the partial-thumbs-up,

Mickey
 

Carl L

Moderator Emeritus
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
7,239
Location
west Los Angeles
Load balance?? Easy, load it nose heavy.? All the big stuff goes ahead of the axles.? ?Tongue weight tends to stabilize the trailer and is, therefore, your friend.

More importantly check to see that the weight equalizing system is properly adjusted.? The intructions are in the forum library.

Get an anti-sway mechanism.? Learn to adjust it properly (ie. read the instructions).

Stab. jacks are stabilizing jacks.? They are for the purpose of stabilizing the trailer when in camp.? They prevent the trailer from jiggling around on its suspension.? ?They cannot be used to level the trailer.? ?Use wooden blocks placed under the axles for your lateral level and the hitch jack for fore and aft level.? Camping World and other dealers sell sets of yellow/orange plastic blocks that work better than wood in my opinion.? ?20 take care of anything but the worst sites.

 

Carl L

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Posts
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Mickey_C said:
What is an anti-sway mechanism, and where do I find one?

Where ever you found your WD hitch system.? Ask the dealer.? Or look HERE

May not be your brand but the info is straight on.

 

Mickey_C

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Posts
11
Okay, I am a little confused - I thought that the Equalizer weight distributing hitch had this system already built into it.

What'd I miss? Is there some separate part I need to get with the Equalizer?

I've now found about about the Sherline guage... I'll be getting one of those, to make sure I don't overload the trailer tongue. Anything else?
 

Lowell

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Posts
2,221
Location
Tempe, AZ
Mickey,

You may not need a sway brake for your trailer.  It is a friction type device that attaches between a separate small ball on the hitch and anther small ball on the side of the trailer frame.  You may find that the weight distribution hitch does the job effectively itself.  I used to pull a Coleman Plantation pop-up camper and on that I needed the sway brake to keep the trailer from going back and forth sideways.  The sway brake did a great job. But when I got my 28 ft. TT with a weight distribution hitch, I tried it out first without the sway brake and found I didn't need it.

I would suggest you try it firstwithout the sway bar brake, cautiously, and see if you need it. Any hitch installer would be able to install the brake if you need it.

Jake
 

Carl L

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Mickey_C said:
Okay, I am a little confused - I thought that the Equalizer weight distributing hitch had this system already built into it.

What'd I miss? Is there some separate part I need to get with the Equalizer?

I've now found about about the Sherline guage... I'll be getting one of those, to make sure I don't overload the trailer tongue. Anything else?

My apologies, yes, the Equalizer does have integral anti-sway control.  It is one of a number that do.  So you are cool with what you have.  Be sure to read how to adjust it correctly.  Insist on getting the installation instructions from the dealer.    Sway control is a safety issue.

In so far as overloading the trailer tongue, that is not the critical issue -- underloading is.  That is to say, the tongue weight of a travel trailer should be at least 12-15% of the weight of the trailer.  The smart thing to do is to weigh the trailer in road ready but unpacked condition at public scale, and use the tongue weight gauge to get the tongue weight in that condition.  That will give you a feel for the loading of the trailer in the future.

I have done that with my own unit -- a 23' Prowler.  It weighed in at 4650 lbs.  The tongue weight is 700 lbs as measured on a Shurline.  That is 15%.  The tailer is rock steady.  I My fresh water tank is ahead of the axles.  A full 40 gallon tank runs the TW up to 750 lbs.  Still 15%.  A well balanced trailer will do that.
 

Mickey_C

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Posts
11
Saying that my trailer does the same, where should I then load extra stuff, like the telescopes? There's about 400 lbs of telescope gear (optical tubes, cases, mounts, counterweights, batteries, etc.)?

If I plop that all in the front of the trailer, it will overload the tongue weight right?

Once again, an educational book would be perfect.
 

Carl L

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Well if you want a book, try The RV Handbook by Bill Estes, currently in its 2nd edition.  That should get you started.

Once upon a time, in my salad days I used to weigh and balance aircraft for Uncle Sam.  If you are going to play around with loading, you have to cope with the Gross Vehicle Weight rating of the trailer first of all.  The GVWR is the sum of the dry (tare) weight of the trailer plus the maximum payload it can take.    Your 400 lbs of gear is going to add into it.  So are your food, clothing and other gadgets.  You can load the trailer up to that limit.

In dealing with tongue weight you are dealing with leverage.  The lever is your trailer frame.  The pivot, the center of rotation (CR), is your axles.  The force of the trailer's weight on the lever acts at as if it were at a point called the center of gravity (CG).  A stable trailer is designed do that the CG is well ahead of the CR.  This throws weight on to the ball and to the tow vehicle in effect coupling it to the trailer and lessening the leverage the trailer has over the trailer.  If the CG is not far enough ahead of the CR, or worst of all, it is at or behind the CR (tail heavy), the trailer will become unstable, even wildly unstable.

To see this in operation, watch a kid on a skate board.  If he want to run straight and true forward, he leans forward putting the most weight on the front wheels of the boards causing the board to plow ahead.  If he wants to pivot quickly or pull jinks, he leans back putting most of the weight on the rear wheels destablizing the board allowing it to move around quickly.

Same thing with a trailer.  Put a lot of weight on the back of the trailer and it can move around quickly in response to changes in lateral forces.  We call that trailer sway.  You don't want trailer sway.  As Martha might say, it is a bad thing.

If your hitch system is a Class IV unit, it can take 500 - 1200 lbs of tongue weight.  You are going to have to start hauling bricks in a 22' trailer to exceed 1200 lbs.  In other words, if  you have a Class IV unit you are going to be hard put to overload the hitch with a 180CZ.  Your real concern is underloading the ball by excessive weight to the rear of axles of the trailer thereby reducing trailer stability.
Just be careful of doing that and be careful of exceeding the GVWR of the trailer overall. 

Relax.  If you are still nervous, weigh the trailer loaded for travel, check the TW with the gauge, do the math, and if you are over 12% on the tongue you are just fine.


You are going to buy a Shurline
 

Mickey_C

Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2006
Posts
11
Thank you very much for such an informative reply!

I think I understand now my biggest worry about this should be to not overload the 1/2 ton truck - and suddenly I understand why some people advised me that an HD 2500 truck might be better suited.

So if I have this right, whatever I put in the truck is dead weight, but whatever I put in the trailer is leveraged off the axles, so I am better off loading my trailer, and keeping the truck payload available for the trailer tongue weight, my fuel, and my passengers. Correct? I can see how 1500 lbs can be used up pretty quickly - I get more bang for my buck by loading the trailer. And also, from what your saying, the feathers should go in the back of the trailer, and the gold bullion forward of the axles, right?

I've been reading the newcomer informaiton - it IS very informative. Today I learned to accelerate through a blowout. Amazing stuff.

Thanks once again,

Mickey
 

Carl L

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You are over complicating it.  Everything you load on the trailer and in the truck counts.  There is a rating called Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR).    It is the maximum combination of trailer weight, truck weight, and trailer and truck payloads that the truck can handle.    The later editions of the Trailer Life Tables give the GCWR of the tow vehicles listed.  Take a glance at the 2005 tables.

What this means is that you cannot have free lunch in loading.  You have to say below both the GCWR and the Tow Rating for your tow vehicle.

In loading the trailer, just be careful not to load it tail heavy which would destabilize it
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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So if I have this right, whatever I put in the truck is dead weight, but whatever I put in the trailer is leveraged off the axles, so I am better off loading my trailer, and keeping the truck payload available for the trailer tongue weight, my fuel, and my passengers. Correct? I can see how 1500 lbs can be used up pretty quickly - I get more bang for my buck by loading the trailer. And also, from what your saying, the feathers should go in the back of the trailer, and the gold bullion forward of the axles, right?

That's a bit extreme, but you've got the idea.  The truck GVWR and rear axle GAWR are your most limiting factors, but as Carl says, ALL limits must be observed.

In the trailer, you want the heaviest loads closest to the axles.  Any weight you put behind the trailer axles will tend to remove hitch weight; anything forward of the axles will be bridged between the trailer axles and the hitch, in proportion to the distance from each. A load that is half way between the trailer axle and the hitch is carried half on each one, which means it adds quickly to hitch weight and the load on the truck.  So you don't want that bullion very far forward or the truck wil end up carrying much of its weight.

Be careful of the trailer water tanks - water is heavy and the tank locations can have an extreme effect on trailer weight balance when any or all of the tanks are full.
 

Carl L

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Joined
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Be careful of the trailer water tanks - water is heavy and the tank locations can have an extreme effect on trailer weight balance when any or all of the tanks are full

My tanks are arranged so that the black tank is aft of the axles, the gray tank over the axles and the fresh tank about 3-5 feet ahead of them.? ?Using a Sherline tongue weight scale (see one HERE) I weight TW with the fresh tank empty and full.  The TW increased from 750# to just under 800# with that addition of 320# of weight forward of the axles or 16% of the 5000#  trailer weight + water. 

The black tank, being aft of the axles, would have the opposite effect but I have no numbers on it.  If one assumes for simplicity sake that the lever arm is the same but with the sign reversed, it would reduce the TW from 750# to 700# .  700# is 14% of my trailer weight + water -- well within the desirable balance weight of a trailer.

In short, my little Fleetwood box is designed well enough not to allow reasonably expected loads, tanks in this case, to upset its stabilizing balance.

So, unless a one is an amateur horse shoer carrying his anvil and forge, most folks can relax about travel trailer loading.  Just don't hang that Harley from the back of the trailer.  8)

By the way.  Follow that link for Sherline and download their PDF on trailer towing.  Interesting publication.
 
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